Book Review: Somewhere Different Now
Reviewed by Robyn-Lee Samuels
A heartwarming tale of friendship and courage in post-World War II Colorado
Donna Peizer’s debut novel, Somewhere Different Now, tells the story of thirteen-year-old Annie Cahill and her new friend Clydeen Hollifield, as they discover friendship, love, and how to navigate the racial tensions in small town Colorado in 1949.
The novel opens with a glimpse into Annie’s life before her family moves out of the city and into the suburbs of Denver. As more people of color move into the neighborhood, Annie’s father decides they should migrate too, before the neighborhood changes. Annie is a city girl at heart, and she is not prepared for the new lifestyle she will be forced to adapt to. With no friends and very few sources of entertainment, she is determined to find a place all her own in her new surroundings.
While exploring a rocky hideout on a mesa, she meets Clydeen, a homeless African-American girl hiding in a cave. The girls become fast friends and soon Annie and Clydeen share not only stories (like Huckleberry Finn), but also their deepest secrets. Clydeen helps Annie recognize the realities of racial segregation in the United States and how it is not simply a matter of personal beliefs.
Soon, however, their bond is tested when Annie’s true loyalty is called into question.
Although there are multiple point-of-view characters, including Clydeen, the novel is primarily told from Annie’s perspective. Even in Clydeen’s chapters, you only read about her life as it relates to Annie. As a result, readers are able to see how she slowly begins to grow from a self-absorbed teenager who is often wrapped up in her own problems to a young woman who learns to see beyond the color of people’s skin and learn how to become an active participant in the fight for equality.
Clydeen is searching for her mom and has longings of her own, but her story is only revealed when she tells Annie about her past. When Clydeen is on her own, she thinks about Annie, but you never see what she does or where she goes.
This could be problematic for some readers, but I appreciated that Peizer kept the story simple. There are no deep dark secrets to unravel, nor is there a huge revelation that changes the course of the story. It’s straightforward and honest, which helps ground the novel in its purpose—shedding light on racial injustice post-World War II.
Although it’s a YA historical novel, Peizer’s writing feels current and teens won’t have any problem recognizing themselves in Annie or Clydeen. Peizer successfully captures 1940s Colorado, racial tensions, and life as a teenager. Annie’s character is realistic and readers can’t help but be drawn toward her opinions and feelings about growing up.
Somewhere Different Now is a must-read for fans of YA historical fiction.
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Genre: Young Adult / Historical Fiction
Print Length: 354 pages
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